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placeholder DeSousa House: a new faith formation and activity center

New parish complex at Holy Spirit in Fremont includes theater

New event center at St. Theresa Parish in Oakland includes gym, stage, meeting rooms

Former Oakland cathedral site yields $5.25 million

Seton Award for contributions to Catholic schools

Catholic legislators must protect life, pope tells Speaker Pelosi

Black nun recalls her role in Selma protest

Traditionalist bishop says reconciliation with Vatican may be difficult, take time

Combating world hunger during Lent

Lenten regulations

Restorative justice – a new model for stemming violence

placeholder February 23, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA

Bishop Emeritus John Cummins officially opens DeSousa House at Holy Spirit Parish. With him are Father Gerry Moran, former pastor (left), Father Mathew Vellankal, pastor, and Father Aidan McAleenan, parochial vicar (far right).

DeSousa House: a new faith formation
and activity center

Bishop Emeritus John Cummins blessed DeSousa House, Holy Spirit parish’s new faith formation and parish activities center, on Feb. 8.

The $5.5 million building houses eight classrooms, a conference room, four offices and a 135-seat movie theater. It is named for Holy Spirit’s second pastor, Monsignor Alfred DeSousa, who succeeded founding pastor Father Domingo Governo. Father Governo served the parish from 1886 until 1913.

Msgr. DeSousa, a native of the Azores in Portugal, was pastor from 1913 until his retirement in 1946.

Deacon Bill Drobick, director of faith formation, says of the two priests: Father Governo “can be likened to our parish nativity or birthing and Msgr. DeSousa can be seen as our parish Easter or Resurrection.”

In April 1919, while the Monsignor was officiating at a burial, the church caught on fire and was destroyed. Conjecture has it that either a candle inside the church burned down, catching the altar linens on fire, or someone knocked over the candle.

Holy Spirit’s pastor ran back to the church, but was able to save only the Blessed Sacrament, Deacon Drobick said. The priest and parishioners soon went to work raising funds for a new building through raffles, bake sales and festivals. A few months later, Archbishop Patrick Riordan of San Francisco loaned the parish $100,000. Within two years, a new Holy Spirit arose from the ashes of the old.

In order to repay the loan, parishioners were charged pew rent and held more church festivals and raffles. “Families were assessed anywhere from $300 to $3,000 a year for rent,” said Deacon Drobick.

According to San Francisco archival accounts, Msgr. DeSousa sometimes used personal funds to make needed repairs. He also bought new shoes for his altar servers when their families could not afford to do so. In 1936 San Francisco Archbishop John Joseph Mitty nominated him for be an honorary member of the papal household, called a domestic prelate.

When the parish began its capital campaign in 2002 for its new faith formation and parish activities center, the executive committee decided to call the effort: “Preserving our Heritage — Embracing Our Future,” in honor of both Father Governo and Msgr. DeSousa. When they broke ground for the new facility in 2006, they brought earth from their burial sites to be mixed in with the ground under the new building.

The parish is still about $1.3 million short of its fundraising goal and if the funds don’t come in, the parish will consider selling a piece of property it owns.

By way of coincidence, parishioner Danielle Goularte is the great-great granddaughter of the man who was buried by Msgr. DeSousa on the day in 1919 when the old church burned down.

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